Friday, December 22, 2006

Banking Secrecy (Politics Free)

Banking facilities in Lebanon are world class. But don't be fooled by the spotless sparkling floors, fancy chandeliers, impeccably dressed employees, and the priceless historic artifacts that adorn the lobby, that's all just a facade. What really keeps our banks going and pumping money into all the patriotic feel good ad campaigns you see on TV and just before the feature presentatrion at the movies is not phoenecian financial whizzery but rather a precious little thing of ours that we call banking secrecy. Banking secrecy involves plenty of questionable business ethics; though that's a different issue for a different day because as advertised this post is politics free.

I was just someone that wanted to cash a measly little check for $90 that was rotting in my pocket when I stumbled upon Bank X, well Bank X and X to be more precise and we'll leave at that because again any extra information I provide could be interpreted as a political attack and I wouldn't do that. So I approach one of the six idle tellers, being the only customer in the place I had my choice; so I chose the experienced looking one against my male instincts of heading towards the cute one who seemed too entrenched in gossip to be bothered. Anywhere else in the world, you usually find a long line of customers waiting for an overworked teller to be free to process your transaction. You estimate that your bank visit will take about 20 minutes, 15 in line and 5 for the transaction. So with the tellers outnumbering the customers, me, 6 to 1; and having the simple transaction of cashing a $90 check I assumed I'd be out in 5 minutes max. Well, I was wrong. I was fooled by the flat screens and the marble counter. The fun had just commenced ...

The Teller, who will be now known as #1 for tracking purposes, took a look at the check, punched a few keys on her computer, filled up a form by hand, and printed another form, which she stapled to the rest of the paperwork. #1 stands up and walks over to #2, a middle aged man who was just bragging how he completed the Medium Level of Spider Solitaire sucessfully. #2 takes a look at all papers nods and signs and directs her towards #3, a higher up with an individual glass bowl office. Meanwhile #4, the cute teller, and #5, her bleach blond gossip partner, are getting annoyingly loud and were shushed by #6, the office dork who takes his paper shuffling job seriously. #1's phone rings, it was her daughter who just got back from school, the food was ready in the fridge and just needed reheating. #1 writes down my phone number and full address on the back of the check.That was a bit of a challenge since I don't really know if the street and/or the building that I live in even have a name, "Hamra 5th floor" didn't quite cut it. #1 stood up again and went across the room to the only smart efficient being in the building, #7, the photocopy machine. #1 came back only to be intercepted by #8, a gum chewing fully made up lady, who reminded her that she needed to photocopy the back of the check too. Note that the choice of the word "lady" was also to keep this post politics-free. #7 does the job again. #1 informs me that they have to phone the issuer of the check and that it will only take a couple of minutes. #8 was in charge of the phone call, she called and asked for the owner of the company, who happened to be in a meeting. I intervened in an effort to expedite the process, you know after all I have studied productiviy at one of the Top 7 Industrial Engineering programs in the Southeast. I suggested she calls the accountant since I doubt the owner of the company is aware of a petty $90 check. #8, the lady she is, prefered talking to the boss directly.

At this point, I was a bit ... let's just say I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions. After 5 minutes of #8 waiting for the owner of the check's issuing company to return her urgent call, #2 noticed that I've been standing there for the duration of a few Spider Solitaire rounds and urged #8 to "help the poor man." #8 then called again and this time she did talk to the accountant.

All in all, Bank X and X spent a combined 20 manhours of work processing this $90 check, but here's the clincher: the check was NOT cashed and I was asked to deposit it in my bank account. So more people and more time are needed for processing my $90 check, well $89 since my bank discounted a $1 processing fee, you know all these people don't work for free.

So how can a financial institution with the efficiency of the Panamanian Department of Motor Vehicles strive and splurge in a deadbeat economy?

Hey, it's a secret.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

ميشال أفندي

يا حضرة الجنرال العماد الدولة والرئيس والاصلاح والتغيير وكل شي،
يا أشرف الناس و أكرم الناس و أعزّ الناس و يا أحلى عالم إنت،
بدّك رئاسة الجمهوريّة؟ لك خوذ الرئاسات التلاتة و فوقن العرش الملكي الهاشمي الاردني و حبّة مسك إذا بدّك،
هلّقتنيّي صارفي إجماع وطني عهَل قضيّة، اسلام و مسيحيّة ، دروز و شيعة و سنّية.بس في شرط واحد.
بليز ، برحمة إمّك و بيّك ، بحياة لي راحوا ولّي رح يرجعوا، بنبَوّس ايديك وإجريك. إحرُق التياب لي كنت لابسها نهار الاحد الماضي! شو كاين عمبتفكّر؟ لك عيب ، في مليون واحد شافوك . منظرك كان من اساليب التعذيب المحظورة بالمعاهدات الدوليّة ، لا بغوانتانامو ولا بأبو غريب ولا حتّى بالمزّة عملوها هيدي. لو أولمرت تجرّأ و طلع هيك بالحرب كانوا انبطحوا رجال الله في الميدان و يعطيك العافية. جماعة كوير آي قلبوا سترايت واعتزلوا المهنة بس شافوك كيا زلمي.
صارلو البلد يومين تلاتة متل المضروب عراسو من صدمة هالشوفة، لك حتّى الإكسترا بوروجو ما عم ينفع.
بشرفك ما بقى تعيدا.
- زافين و 666 من أجل لبنان
أنا كنت شاكك في لهلشخص من زمان
هلّق عرفت ليش بيتزرزع بدني كل ما شوفو

- أنا بحترم خالد صاغية، هو أوّل واحد بقرالو مقالتو بالأخبار بعد ما إخلص من جوزيف سماحة ، وبعد زياد لمّا يكتب، و بعد الأبراج أكيد.
بس عم لاحظ إنو كل ما أكتب عن موضوع، هو بيكتب عن نفس الموضوع (آخر مثال كان كذبة الأزعور). فعمبتسائَل هل يا ترى هيدا لانّو طاغي علينا الفكر الشمولي لي عم بيبشّرنا في بيك كليمنصو؟

- و أخيراً أغنية مهداة لملهم هلبوست
يطول عمرو.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Check Mate

Day 13 of the opposition's sit in has passed and still no change is sight, especially now that Amr Moussa is in charge. Has Amr Moussa ever been successful at anything?
In my humble opinion, well maybe not so humble, the opposition demands are just not enough. While I'm not to quick to adopt the "One Million" figure, even though Fisk dropped the "Two Million" bomb, it is quite clear that at least an equal number of people took to the streets to protest Siniora as did to protest 30 years of brotherly/sisterly oppression. So according to the people, which in democracies...OK ...OK... I know Democracy is sooo last year, this year is all about Moderation; But still the people are at least as as angry at this government as they were with Ghazi Kanaan's and that is a quite telling fact regardless of what deals are being tailored around the actual demands of the people.

Now I'm not a moderate, at least not by this year's definition of the word, I'm clearly an extremist as I see the opposition's demand as too lame and well ... moderate. People did not march in hundreds of thousands for a national unity government with the same old faces, they marched for change. They want to move forward, or backward that's debatable, but to move regardless. With that said, I do understand the opposition's walking on eggs approach. There are too many scary scenarios, sectarian strife being possibly the least scary of them, that must be averted. The fragility of the situation in Lebanon has pushed them towards the "moderate" to avoid the heinous distinction of "democratic" which is a shame because they do have a strong and rightful case that they are fumbling away.

On the other hand, which would be the no shame hand, Siniora continues to burry his head in sand and xanax while counting on his friend and Fatfat to bail him out. I must stop and wonder about Fatfat for a second. This summer while he was the acting Minister of Interior our National Basketball team had a very respectable showing at the World Championship including a win against France, now that he has reassumed his role as Sports and Youth Minister we lose 4 straight games at the Asian Games including a loss against none other than Borat's home team; must be the Marjeyoun Zone Defense. Off course, Siniora does have another option. He can actually choose to listen to his people but that would set a bad precedent for the region.

As many regional implications as this movement might have, make no mistake that these people who took to the streets are for the most part a bunch of genuinely disgruntled citizens. No one should take them lightly or dismiss them as mere pawns as some of the kings, bishops, and rooks are doing.

Tis the Season to be Jolly...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

بالعربي المُشَبرَحِ

قال "بدّن يرجعوكن لورا"

ليش بعد في "لورا" لنرجعلا ، ما حرقتولا نفسا ل"لورا"

بتذكروا دعاية التيكو من شي عشرين سنة؟ بتذكروا التيكو اصلاً؟ الالتيكو كان الكرايزي غلو تبع هيديك الإيّام، الاصبع كان ينفع لاستعمال واحد موحّد و يعطيك العافية، المهمّ، كان في مرا عم بتفرفر لإنّو التيكو لزّقها عالباب. ايه هيك حالتنا اليوم، قفانا ملزّق بحيط عمبن فرفر و اصلاً ما فينا نشوف "لورا" ما بنعرف كيف خلقة حضرة جنابا، لك حتّى جناب ما فينا نشوف. محشورين بزاوية و بتقلّي "لورا"

هيدا رجل الدولة من قبل ما يصير رجل من لمّا كان بعدو بس وزير دولة لشؤون المصاري و هوّي عم بيدفش فينا "لورا" بدّك بعد أزَعوَر من ستّين الف مليار ليرا "لورا"؟

لك حتّى شوف بلاكين جيرانك بالبلس غاردن شوف، ولا علم لا فوقك ولا تحتك ولا "لوراك" . بدّك اياهن يعلقولك اعلام؟ لك روبة ما بقى يعيروك الجماعة.

قال "بدّن يرجعوكن لورا"

الله يرحما "لورا"

ملاحظة: رح إتغاضا ال"بدّن" وال"يرجعوكن" وكل معانيهن لإنّو يمكن ما كان قصدن هيك. يمكن. بس "لورا" ما فيها اي التباس ولا لباس الحمدالله، بالزلط متل ما الله خالقها.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Argileh, Cotton Candy, Dabke, Balloons,and Wiam Wahhab.

If anyone is counting on the Pro-National Unity Government protestors(known as Pro-Syrians in the American press) to get bored and go home, they better rethink their strategy as the entertainment options Downtown are never ending. (A new strategy might be to shoot at people to keep them from expressing themselves.) Some of the protestors are having more fun than they've ever had, even though they still haven't made it past the velvet rope at Buddha Bar and Asia. Kaak, Corn on the Cob, Concerts, Ice Cream Trucks, and Fortune tellers line up the open areas of Downtown Beirut. The opposition is prepared to squat for a long time. No one can question the Lebanese abilitites at squatting as only our southern neighbors can rival us in that department.

Meanwhile, the ruling coallition including those who constantly mock the notion of "Divinity" are getting religious, opening all channels of communications with God in their squatting bid. I wonder if Bassam Abu Zaid asked those at the Grand Serail mass for their IDs. I also wonder if Bassam Abu Zaid has previous experience asking for IDs. I'm not pointing any fingers....just wondering.

On a different front, Lebanon won its first medal in the ongoing Asian Games in the half-Lebanese, or is it one eighth Lebanese, city of Doha. I won't mention what event we medaled in because we don't need that reputation right now.

On a final note, does anyone know if London's Serious Fraud Office is available as a franchise?

UPDATE: Future TV's news ticker reports that the residents of the alley that runs behind the gas station deny that they denied Future TV's earlier claim that the above mentioned citizens denied Manar TV's ticker report that they denied the earlier Future news ticker item that they support the government.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Little Tidbits

Sports and Youth Minister Ahmad Fatfat was a communist not so long ago. He was so staunchly anti-God that he refused to go into a mosque to pray after his faher's death. Yesterday he was right behind the Mufti in the Grand Seraille prayinng hard to keep his job.

When the time comes, Sleiman Frangieh will go down in history as the most entertaining president in the history of Lebanon. If we're going to have a useless president, he might as well be a vulgar clown.

Book Cooking Minister Jihad Azour said yesterday that Lebanon loses $70 Million a day because of the anti-government protests . That is a flat out lie. You don't need to be a finance whiz to find out that this number is grossly over exaggerated. (Lebanon's GDP is approximately $20 Billion. Imports are about $8 Billion. So for Azour's number to be close to being accurate, Lebanon's Consumption + Investments + Government Spending + Exports must be ZERO!! on every day the protests take place. ZERO means complete paralysis, people don't work, don't eat, don't drive, don't watch TV, just don't.)

The protest site is Downtown facing the Grand Seraille, all other forms of motorized and loud expression of stances whether for or against the government must be stopped. Oh, wait the ISF is too busy harrassing Sukleen workers. Seriously though, ISF is understaffed. 22,000 Policemen for the whole country is way below world averages, yet our crime rate is respectable. So we do have potential to be something special if we did things right for once.

Speaking of potential Gold, Lebanon Basketball plays Uzbekistan today in Doha's Asian games at 17:15 Beirut Time.